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How Stress Affects Women’s Health

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Stress is a reaction to a change or a challenge. In the short term, stress can be helpful; it makes you more alert and gives you the energy to get things done.

But long-term stress can lead to serious health problems.

Women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress, including headaches and upset stomach. Women are also more likely to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety.

Some of the health effects of stress are the same for men and women. Stress can cause trouble sleeping and weaker immune systems. But there are other ways that stress affects women. Click here to learn how to manage stress.

Womenshealth.gov provided the following ways stress can negatively affect your health:

  • Headaches and migraines. When you are stressed, your muscles tense up. Long-term tension can lead to headache, migraine, and general body aches and pains. Tension-type headaches are common in women.
  • Depression and anxiety. In the past year, women were almost twice as likely as men to have symptoms of depression. Women are more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research suggests that women may feel the symptoms of stress more or get more of the symptoms of stress than men. This can raise their risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Heart problems. High-stress levels can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, high blood pressure can cause serious health problems, such as stroke and heart attacks. Younger women with a history of heart problems may be especially at risk of the negative effects of stress on the heart.
  • Upset stomach. Short-term stress can cause stomach issues such as diarrhea or vomiting. Long-term stress can lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that is twice as common in women as in men, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Stress can make IBS symptoms such as gas and bloating worse.
  • Obesity. The link between stress and weight gain is stronger for women than for men. Stress increases the amount of a hormone in your body called cortisol, which can lead to overeating and cause your body to store fat.
  • Problems getting pregnant. Women with higher levels of stress are more likely to have problems getting pregnant than women with lower levels of stress. Also, not being able to get pregnant when you want to can be a source of stress.
  • Menstrual cycle problems. Women who experience chronic or long-term stress may have more severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms or irregular periods. Some studies link past abuse or trauma to more severe PMS
  • Decreased sex drive. Women with long-term stress may take longer to get aroused and may have less sex drive than women with lower levels of stress. While not surprising, at least one study, in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that women with higher stress levels were more distracted during sex than other women.

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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